2016 New Faculty and Staff

Date Published: 
November 29, 2016

The William States Lee College of Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte is proud to announce the addition of our new faculty and staff members for 2016-17. As educators, researchers, technicians and administrators, these individuals bring a wealth of experience and training from some of the best academic institutions and companies in the world.

Dr. Yawo Amengonu
Teaching Assistant Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, UNC Charlotte, 2015

Dr. Amengonu is a teaching assistant professor in the Communications, Control Systems and Signal Processing group. His Ph.D. research focused on geometric methods for control of nonholonomic dynamical systems with applications to wheeled mobile robots. His current research interests include analysis and design of nonlinear dynamical systems, multidimensional signal processing and engineering education.

 Research interests:

  • Geometric methods of information theory for control of dynamical systems
  • Wheeled mobile robots
  • Vibrational energy harvesting
  • Signal processing for active and semi-active control


Dr. Nicole Barclay
Teaching Assistant Professor, Engineering Technology and Construction Management
Ph.D. in Civil Engineering, Clemson University, 2016

Dr. Barclay joins UNC Charlotte from Clemson University where she worked as a graduate research and teaching assistant in the areas of sustainability, construction engineering and management. Her past research includes decision making for green storm water infrastructure development, and also sustainability as a route to female recruitment in engineering. Her teaching style infuses sustainability principles where applicable into the subject matter and encourages students to think critically about the material.

Research Interests:

  • Water-energy nexus
  • Socio-technical analysis of water infrastructure systems
  • Decision making for sustainable infrastructure


Dr. Nicole Braxtan
Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Ph.D. in Structural Engineering, Lehigh University, 2010

Dr. Braxtan joins the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering from Manhattan College, where she was an assistant professor for five years. Her Ph.D. research focused on post-earthquake fire on steel buildings with an emphasis on the mechanical and thermal behavior of fire resistant materials and steel. She has experience in finite element modeling of steel and concrete members in fire, as well as large and small-scale experimental testing of steel members and systems. Her current research interests include analysis and design of buildings, bridges and energy infrastructure subject to extreme loads.

Research interests:

  • Structural components and systems in fire
  • Passive fire protection for steel buildings and bridges
  • Energy infrastructure and systems
  • Performance of materials at elevated temperature
  • Seismic performance and design
  • Sustainable construction and green buildings


Dr. Umit Cali
Assistant Professor, Engineering Technology and Construction Management
Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of Kassel / Fraunhofer Institute IWES, Germany, 2010

Dr. Cali joins UNC Charlotte from the University of Wisconsin where he worked as an assistant professor in the Electrical Engineering Department. He has more than 15 years of industrial, academic, research and development experience in the U.S., Germany and Turkey. He worked as CTO, unit manager, project manager and researcher in international consultancy companies, power utilities and national research institutes. His research interests lie in renewable energy technologies (mainly wind and solar energy), distributed power generation, energy informatics and energy economy.

Research interests:

  • Renewable energy resources analysis
  • Wind and solar power forecasting systems
  • Power markets and energy trading algorithms
  •  Cyber-physical systems
  • Energy economy and policy
  • Electric vehicles


Dr. Terence Fagan
Associate Teaching Professor, Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Science
Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, UNC Charlotte, 2005

Dr. Fagan was engineering chair at Central Piedmont Community College, where he led the effort to create an associates in engineering degree program at the state level. At CPCC he initialized and implemented Fab Ed Carolina, which integrates personal fabrication, engineering education and entrepreneurship for the Charlotte region. He serves as a Fab Lab Guru to Fab Academy and leads fabrication workshops throughout the country training teachers in engineering concepts. At UNC Charlotte he brings his passion and dedication to learning through fabrication in and out of the classroom. He currently serves as vice chair for IEEE Charlotte Section and is a US FIRST mentor.  

Research interests.

  •  Digital fabrication
  •  Machines that Make
  •  Implementation of UAV's to better serve society through education 
  •  How constructionism is implemented in and out of the classroom.


Gwendolyn Gill
Lecturer and Freshman Advisor, Office of Student Development and Success
M.N.E., North Carolina State University, 1993; J.D., University of Cincinnati, 2000

Ms. Gill joins the Lee College of Engineering after teaching in the Belk College of Business and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at UNC Charlotte while working on her Ph.D. in Public Policy. Prior to starting at UNC Charlotte, she worked as an intellectual property attorney at a local law firm and spent seven years as an engineer at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. While there she participated in upgrading the nuclear reactors, performed accident analysis in preparation of reactor restart, and worked extensively on troubleshooting pumping, sampling and mixing problems with the Defense Waste Processing Facility.


  • STEM, engineering technology and engineering education
  • Fostering resiliency in freshmen engineering students
  • Finding pedagogical strategies that increase student engagement and success
  • History of science and technology


Dr. Navid Goudarzi
Assistant Professor, Engineering Technology and Construction Management
Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, University of Maryland, 2014

Dr. Goudarzi joins UNC Charlotte from the University of Maryland where he worked as a research associate. He earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Maryland.

Research interests:

  • Renewable energy projects with a focus on novel onshore/offshore and small/large-scale wind turbine designs for expanding their operational range and increasing their efficiency
  • Computational/experimental fluid dynamics 
  • System life-cycle and risk economics 
  • System cost modeling 
  • Contract engineering with focus on performance-based logistics/outcome-based contracts


Dr. Qiao-Chu (Tony) He
Assistant Professor, Systems Engineering and Engineering Management
Ph.D. in Operations Research, University of California, Berkeley, 2016

Dr. He joins UNC Charlotte from the University of California, Berkeley, where he completed his doctoral studies in operations research, with minors in statistics and economics. His expertise lies in both descriptive and prescriptive mathematical models for engineering and business systems. He also worked for Schlumberger and @walmartlabs as a data scientist.

Research interests:

  • Socially responsible and sustainable operations
  • Service operations and supply chain management
  • Data-driven decision making


Dr. Jeremy Holleman
Associate Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Ph.D. Electrical Engineer, University of Washington, 2009

Dr. Holleman has previously developed integrated circuits including neural interfaces, low-power radios, a true-random number generator, and analog machine learning circuits. His work has been supported by NSF, DARPA, IARPA and the CDADIC consortium. He has worked for Data I/O and National Semiconductor. His research interests include low-power integrated circuits for wireless sensing applications, biomedical devices, and neurally-inspired analog computational circuits.

Research interests:

  • Ultra-low-power integrated circuit design
  • Analog signal processing and machine learning
  • Implantable and wearable biomedical device design
  • Low-power radio-frequency integrated circuits


Dr. William Langley
Research Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Ph.D. in Civil Engineering, North Carolina State University, 1996

Dr. Langley's work experience includes engineering consulting in water supplies, water and wastewater treatment, hydraulics and hydrology, and groundwater modeling and remediation. He has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in environmental engineering, water quality modeling, hydrology and hydraulics, hydrogeology, and groundwater resources engineering.

Research interests:

  • Sorption of trace constituents in groundwater
  • Water repellency for coal ash containment and reuse
  • Geochemical modeling of stabilization and solidification for coal ash-related solid and liquid wastes
  • Groundwater flow and constituent transport modeling at coal ash storage facilities


Sherman Mumford
Lecturer and Freshman Advisor, Office of Student Development and Success
M.S. in Engineering Management, Eastern Michigan University, 2006

Mr. Mumford joins UNC Charlotte from Johnston Community College, North Carolina, where he taught in both the Associates in Engineering and Industrial Systems Technology programs. Prior to teaching, he spent 20 years in industry working on a wide range of manufacturing projects serving health care products, commercial vehicle, aerospace, and electrical plug and receptacle production industries.

Research interest:

  • STEM, engineering technology and engineering education
  • Diversity and inclusiveness within engineering professions
  • US manufacturing skills gap


Dr. Mariya Munir
Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering, Michigan State, 2014

Dr. Munir’s expertise is in the field of emerging biological contaminants in water and wastewater environment. Her research focuses on applications in environmental microbiology techniques in studying antibiotic resistance bacteria and genes in wastewater treatment plants. She is interested in working at the interfaces of water and health in developing and developed countries.

Research interest:

  • Microbial water quality and public health issues
  • Antibiotic resistance in water, wastewater and soil environment
  • Detection, removal and inactivation of emerging biological contaminants in water and wastewater systems
  • Drinking water treatment technologies
  • Storm water microbial water quality
  • Metagenomics (bioinformatics)
  • Biofuels and microbes-energy nexus
  • Sustainability 


Dr. Joseph Owen
Assistant Research Professor, Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Science
Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, UNC Charlotte, 2015

Dr. Owen is a recent graduate of UNC Charlotte. A year into his graduate degree, he left to work for DigitalOptics Corporation where he learned invaluable skills in diamond machining of lens molds for applications in cell phone cameras, infrared cameras and fiber optic cable connectors. He also spent extensive time developing tool paths for novel optical surfaces. He returned full-time to UNC Charlotte to become an invaluable member of the freeform optics research group. His Ph.D. research focused on diamond machining of brittle materials and tool error correction techniques for freeform optics manufacturing.

Research interests:

  • Ultra-precision diamond machining
  • Freeform optics
  • Brittle materials
  • Machining error modeling and correction
  • Micro-structures


Dr. Jake Smithwick
Assistant Professor, Engineering Technology and Construction Management
Ph.D. in Construction Management, Arizona State, 2016

Dr. Smithwick joins UNC Charlotte from Arizona State University where he worked as a staff research manager. He has an extensive applied-research background in facilities project delivery, teaching experience at both the university and professional levels, and 12 years’ experience in building waterproofing and roofing system inspection. He also served six years in the US Air Force Reserve (Civil Engineering Squadron) and was awarded the 2009 Airman of the Year for the 944th Fighter Wing.

Research interests:

  • Optimization of project delivery within facility management
  • Procurement technology, risk management and performance measurement
  • Organizational agility through strategic management of overhead
  • Improving the “business” of facility management: leadership, organizational structure, operations, financial management


Dr. Mei Sun
Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, 2012

Dr. Sun worked as a postdoc researcher in North Carolina State before joining UNC Charlotte. Her research focuses on developing solutions for sustainable water treatment/reuse and resolving issues related to the water-energy nexus, using fundamental knowledge and experimental methods in water chemistry, environmental electrochemistry, catalytic chemistry and biogeochemistry.

Research interests:

  • Innovative treatment technologies to remove emerging contaminants from water and wastewater
  • Fate, transport and degradation of contaminants in various environmental matrices
  • Contaminated subsurface remediation


Dr. Hamed Tabkhi
Assistant Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Ph.D. in Computer Engineering, Northeastern University, 2014

Dr. Tabkhi’s research interest lies in novel architecture and design methodology for embedded computer systems to address societal challenges in health, safety and assistance. To this end, his primary focus is on domain-specific architecture for emerging data analytic and signal-processing applications such as real-time vision, cyber-physical systems, biomedical and robotics. Prior to joining UNC Charlotte, Dr. Tabkhi was a post-doctoral research associate and research scientist in the embedded system lab at Northeastern University.

Research interests:

  • Real-time embedded vision
  • Cyber-physical systems
  • Flexible function-level accelerators for streaming applications
  • Power-efficient architecture for real-time deep learning and machine learning algorithms


Dr. Joshua Tarbutton
Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Science
Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, Clemson University, 2011

Dr. Tarbutton’s research focus is in advanced manufacturing, mechatronics, novel sensor technology, signal processing, system identification, dynamics and control. His current focus is on developing new methods to go from "Art-to-Part" in subtractive manufacturing and in improving a novel method he invented to directly produce piezoelectric sensors using additive manufacturing. He honorably served as a soldier in the United States Army Reserve and has worked for the Georgia Tech Economic Development Institute, Southern States LLC, The Timken Company, TrafficVision, Tucker Innovations, InsituTech, and Manufacturing Laboratories.

Research interests: 

  • Automated tool path planning for machining of discrete parts
  • Additive manufacturing of piezoelectric sensors using the EPAM method 
  • Signal processing, system dynamics and control theory


Dr. Weimin Wang
Assistant Professor, Engineering Technology and Construction Management
Ph.D. in Building Engineering, Concordia University, Canada, 2005

Dr. Wang joins UNC Charlotte from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), where he worked as a senior research scientist for eight years. At PNNL, Dr. Wang acted as a technical contributor, technical lead, and principal investigator for a variety of research projects such as advanced controls for packaged rooftop units, building test bed development for control of complex systems, advanced energy guides for both new and existing buildings, and EnergyPlus development. Dr. Wang has extensive experience using simulations to support building technology development and applications.

Research interests:

  • Modeling, analysis and control of building systems
  • Sustainable building design and operation
  • Building grid integration
  • Smart campus and smart city technologies


Shanda Wirt
Director, Contracts and Grants Office

Ms. Wirt joined the University of North Carolina at Charlotte as the director of the Contracts and Grants Office on June 1, 2016.  She comes to us from the University of Notre Dame, where she spent 17 years in higher education administration. The last 13 of those years were spent in the central research administration office where she worked in both pre- and post-award capacities and, most recently, led the Pre-Award Team within Notre Dame’s College of Engineering. Ms. Wirt also serves as the College-Based Research Officer for the College of Engineering and has been a Certified Research Administrator (CRA) for more than a decade.


Dr. Gabriel Zenarosa
Assistant Professor, Systems Engineering and Engineering Management
Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, 2016

Dr. Zenarosa recently earned his Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. He was previously a software quality assurance test engineer at the University of Pittsburgh National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project, an independent software process consultant, a client support engineer at Nyfix, and a software development consultant. He has a Master’s of Software Engineering degree from Carnegie Mellon University, an M.S. in Computer Science degree from Columbia University, and a B.S. in Computer Science degree from the University of the Philippines. He is a member of INFORMS, SIAM and ACM.

Research interests:

  • Health care systems
  • Stochastic optimization
  • Chance-constrained programming
  • High-performance computing


Dr. Tiefu Zhao
Assistant Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering Department
Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, North Carolina State University, 2010

Dr. Zhao comes to UNC Charlotte with six years of industry R&D experience in power electronics and power management at Eaton Corporate Research and Technology, Milwaukee, WI. He has published more than 30 technical papers in IEEE journals and conferences, has six patents awarded and five patents pending. Dr. Zhao is internationally recognized as the recipient of 2015 IEEE Industry Application Society (IAS) Andrew W. Smith Outstanding Young Member Award and the 2015 STEM Forward Young Engineer of the Year Award for his outstanding achievements and contributions to the power electronics engineering profession.

Research interests:

  • Grid edge power electronics
  • Solid state transformer and solid state circuit protection
  • DC distribution, microgrid and renewable energy integration
  • Wide bandgap device applications
  • Real-time simulation